When Marc Buehler purchased his 1957 Chevrolet six years ago, he expected to replace the upholstery and maybe give the car a paint job. But after more than 40 years of longing for his classic beauty, that would have been too simple.
The '57 Chevy has been Buehler's favorite car since he graduated from high school in 1965. After he finally purchased one, a friend convinced him to do a full restoration on the car, and before he knew it, the Marysville resident was forging ahead full throttle on the project.
"Once your car has thousands of pieces all over the floor, you're at the point of no return," Buehler says with a chuckle.
For longtime car junkies or collectors with an appreciation for older cars, restoring one yourself can be a rewarding endeavor. Those experienced in the process recommend taking time to research the car you want to purchase, then learning the process and planning your budget. If you decide to go for it, the project and finished car can be cherished for years.
"If you restore it yourself, it's your ideas, so it's an extension of your personality or taste," says Jamey Leckner, owner of Dreamers Rods & Pickups Northwest in Everett, a restoration and performance parts shop.
- Make a plan. Consider your budget and how you want to restore your car.
- Start out small. Replace parts such as headlights, chrome, emblems and wheels before tackling larger bodywork.
- Join a local car club whose members build and restore their own cars.
- Subscribe to a good car-restoration magazine. Dave Williams recommends Street Rodder Magazine or Hotrod Magazine.
Buehler and his friend worked nonstop for eight months to complete the restoration, devoting nearly every night and weekend to the project. Buehler went through the entire car and evaluated whether the parts were in good shape or needed to be replaced or rebuilt. He finished the vehicle with Chevy emblems and shiny garnet-red paint.
Slowing down would have allowed for more precise planning, but Buehler says he worked around snags by buying parts online and reading catalogs and magazines. He's also a member of the Northwest Classic Chevy Club and has about four decades of restoration experience. Still, this was his first complete restoration project. Now, Buehler enjoys driving his Chevy to work and around on sunny weekends.
Renton resident Dave Williams rescued his 1930 Ford sedan as it was headed to the junkyard nearly a decade ago. The car was a unique find, with its four-door, blind-back style, and Williams was determined to honor its original features while doing a full restoration.
Working out of his small garage shop, Williams started with the car's basic body and installed parts he found at wrecking yards and supply shops. If he found something he didn't like while rebuilding the car, Williams says he stopped and fixed the problem, then moved on. He's proud of his vigilance to get it right the first time.
Williams worked on bits and pieces of the project until he recently retired. His wife, Chris, recalls saying at that time, "Let's just finish it now." The classy, deep-purple exterior and the interior touches are Chris' handiwork, and Dave's expertise in Volkswagens and Mercedes-Benzes helped the couple finish the project.
Their grandson, who lives a block away, has gotten involved in restoration for the first time, something the Williamses cherish.
"Our whole family likes it," Chris Williams says. "It was really worth it in the end."